Jenny Hval: ‘I hardly ever think of myself as a musician’

Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval - Credit: Archant

Fresh from touring with St. Vincent in North America and with a new album, Apocalypse, Girl, Jenny Hval caught up with the Gazette ahead of her show at Hackney’s Cafe Oto on Sunday.

Hi Jenny. Your new album, Apocalypse, Girl, starts with a quote from the Danish poet Mette Moestrup: ‘Think big, girl, like a king, think kingsize’. Was that the ethos behind the whole record?

No, I don’t think you need to read lyrics like that. There’s always something betraying the meaning of words in a musical context – like the fake and badly done American accent I try to recite those words with. The album deals with big themes, but it’s as much about that failed performance of the accent – the music is full of these failed performances and as much about the sharp, blown-up field recordings that accompany the track.

Maybe the idea of close-ups is one thing that I think is really important – something that seems huge because it’s close to you, too close to feel comfortable, so close it is absorbed into you. Something is always melting in the world of the close-up.

The way Lasse Marhaug came to produce the album sounds unusual. How did it come about and what attracted you to his style?

I liked his music, but we started together without any idea of what would happen. He had almost never produced a record before and certainly not a song-based album. So on the one hand it was very open and risky. But on the other we started our collaboration with a conversation – he interviewed me for his fanzine Personal Best – and that conversation was so interesting that I asked him to produce my album. His huge interest in film and sound and his very narrative and conversational way of collaborating was very liberating.

Thematically, Apocalypse, girl takes in a colourful range of influences, even drawing on elements of fantasy and sci-fi as inspiration. Where did such inspiration come from?

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It came from that conversation – a very expansive conversation where anything could pop up. We could go from talking about ‘70s cult horror classics to Simon and Garfunkel’s production on Bookends to BBC Radiophonic Workshop to Fiona Apple videos in a snap.

How was touring with St. Vincent?

It was a very interesting experience for me. Her audience is varied and love her every move. She’s become so big that a lot of her fans have discovered a new world of weird music through her, which is very humbling to observe. I think I shocked some of them. But I also think I made them think, and that was an interesting match. I do admire her work with pop music textures – it’s very classic and timeless, and at the same time she manages to present an outsider’s perspective very gracefully.

In the past, you’ve often worked with artists from a range of multimedia backgrounds. Do you class yourself as a musician or do you think lines between mediums like music, film and art are increasingly blurring?

No, I hardly ever think of myself as a musician. If I do, I get writer’s block instantly. Lately I’ve been trying to play guitar again after a long break from playing, something like two years, and nothing interesting happens when I touch it. I’m not sure if I’m in-between different art practices, or if I just need to feel like I don’t fit in. Maybe it’s more about going somewhere, always reaching out from one practice to another.


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